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SPECIAL COLLECTIONS REPORT: THE BEERBOHM COLLECTION AT MERTON COLLEGE, OXFORD By John Burgass, Assistant Librarian (Merton College, Oxford University) Max Beerbohm read Classics at Merton College, Uxford, from 1890 to 1894. Uxford was one of the main formative influences in his lite and he retained a lively affection for the place, evident in many passages in his writings, such as that in More in which he roguishly ascribes to his Alma Mater the entire responsibility for making him insufferable. He was made an honorary Doctor of Letters of Oxford and an Honorary Fellow of Merton in 1942. Following Max's death in 1956, the idea of establishing a Beerbohm Collection as a permanent memorial was conceived by Lady Beerbohm, his second wife. On the advice of Sir John Rothenstein, the Director of the Tate Gal 1 ery — whose father, the artist Sir William Rothenstein, had been one of Max's closest friends since his undergraduate days—the suggestion was made that it should be set up at Merton College. The Warden and Fellows agreed, and the idea was put into effect by the College Librarian, Dr. J. R. L. Highfield. The intention was both to serve the needs of scholars and to provide a fitting evocation in an appropriate setting of a writer and artist whose greatest work, Zuleika Dobson or an Oxford Love Story, created out of the pi ace, the society and its customs, conjures up the geni us 1oci with incomparable vividness. Lady Beerbohm generously offered a collection of Max's books, pictures and other possessions to the College, and a room adjacent to the College Library in the fourteenth-century Mob Quadrangle was set aside to house it. The Beerbohm Room was formally opened on 21 April 1961. Major additions to the collection include gifts made by Mrs. Eva Reichmann, Max's sister-in-law, and Mrs. Freda Gardner, formerly secretary to Mrs. Violet Schiff, since 1925 close friend of the Beerbohms, and the bequest ot Mr. Stephen Greene, publisher, of Brattleboro, Vermont, an enthusiastic collector of Beerbohmi ana. The collection includes thirty-five short manuscripts, including a draft of the chapter in Seven Men (Heinemann, 1919) on Hilary Maltby and Stephen Braxton, and an Epistle dedicatory addressed to Lord Northcliffe, to the proposed collection of articles on Italy which Max contributed to the Daily Mail i η 1906; twenty-five typescript drafts and corrected proofs are included as well. There are 2/0 letters from Max to his family and friends, including Lady Violet Bonham Carter, Sydney Cockerell, Charles Conder, Gordon Craig, Vyvyan Holland, Richard Le Gallienne, Ada Leverson, Edward Marsh, Ivor Novello, Hesketh Pearson and Hugh Walpole. Some 1,600 letters were received by Max, including 320 321 300 from his first wife Florence, who died in 1951. Other correspondents include literary and public figures such as Belloc, Bennett, Chesterton, Conan Doyle, Anthony Eden, Eliot, Galsworthy, Edmund Gosse, Granvi11e-Barker, Gerhart Hauptmann, Housman, Aldous Huxley, Ramsay MacDonald, Compton Mackenzie, Masefield, Maugham, A. A. Milne, Harold Nicolson, Sir Arthur Qui 11er-Couch, Siegfried Sassoon and Evelyn Waugh. There are also 100 business letters, mainly from publishers and galleries, as well as 900 letters from various correspondents to Florence and 100 to Elisabeth. There are transcripts of 2,900 letters, mostly written by Max between his first leaving home to go to Charterhouse in 1885 and his death, including 1,400 written to Florence between their first meeting in 1904 and 1947, all the transcripts having been collected by Lord David Cecil while writing his life of Max. There are 160 volumes from Max's library, including a copy of the first edtion of The Works (John Lane: The Bodley Head, 1896) extensively corrected by The author with characteristic regard for punctuation, which served as the printer's copy for the Collected Edition of 1922 (Heinemann). Many of these volumes are "improved" with drawings reflecting Max's interest in writers such as Bennett, Ibsen, Henry James, Kipling, George Moore, Shaw, Lytton Strachey and Wilde. A copy of the first edition of Seven Men shows how their creator himself saw the characters. Although deliberately excluded from Hart-Davis' A Cata!ogue of Cari catures of Max Beerbohm, such...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
pp. 320-322
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
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